Blended Families Don’t Mix
There is nothing simple about a blended family or the effort that will be needed to make it work well.
- Complex structure – large number of people for relationships
- More stress than intact family – caused by more ambiguity and complexity
- Takes years to integrate – minimum seems about 2 years
- Generally have cut-off relationships – 75% no contact with father
- May be continual transitions – imagine holiday juggling issuesLess cohesiveness – less closeness to stepparents
- Unrealistic expectations – don’t see real differences from intact family
- No past history of stability – must work out interactional patterns
- Previous “givens” are no longer givens – acute awareness of behavior
- No shared family history – expecting quick family intimacy harms relationships
- Steprelationships have no solid foundation of understanding – relationship is measured by what is happening now
- Many loyalty conflicts – stepfamily loyalty conflicts are greater than in the intact family
- Roles are ambiguous – stepparents roles often undefined
To get more details click the PLAY triangle above to listen to radio show #109. And, click STORE in the menu above to get access to the videos in chapter 11 "Blended Families".
Bringing two families together makes the system more complex. You have added two extra people to a basic family structure and, those people are often working against the new family. The two former spouses, even if they aren't "enemies" of the family, add complexity, because they are simply, additional elements to consider.
Unfortunately, the first reaction is to try to EXCLUDE the "exes", but that has proven to be the wrong strategy. Research continues to show that kids need their biological parents. So, it is best to make the blended family as close to the original family design as possible.
That means finding ways to INCLUDE rather than exclude the "exes". So the adults need to be mature and work toward the model shown above for the good of the kids. Too often divorce is the result of thinking it is for the good of the kids to break the marriage - that is a myth. Now that there is a blended family, the reality of having as good a relationship with the exes will truly be for the good of the kids.
As stated earlier, it will take focused effort to make a blended family work, but your pay off will be less long-term problems and healthier children. Setting goals to help achieve the model above is definitely wise.
- Good couple relationship - as with any marriage, the health of the marriage and children is dependent on the health of the relationship between the husband and wife. That is what will require the most effort, because this structure has multiple elements to create separation rather than togetherness.
- Warm parent/child relationships - this is not just about the adults, it is also about nurturing the relationships with the children.
- Mutually satisfying step relationships (closeness varies) - while biological parent relationships will always be closer than step relationships, it is imperative to generate as close of a relationship as is appropriate with the step children.
- Children not cut off from the biological parent - it is critical to work through forgiveness and remove the animosity between the exes. Beyond any legal issues, find ways to bring the exes into the children's life - it is best for them.
- Adults in the children’s households cooperate to help children - in order for this to work well, the exes need to be on the same page as the blended family. When the children are with the ex, they need to be operating similarly as when they are at home.
It takes work to get through this serious consequence of divorce. Unfortunately, the work isn't done and the children as well as the adults suffer. PLEASE CHOOSE TO DO THE WORK! and you will reap the rewards.
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